...is at the end of this post. I admired that sign because it was true, it started by attempting to describe a complex point of view, then was edited as the situation changed.
Obviously the most effective political signs are simpler.
When I try to write about politics I become mired in complexity.
Firstly I'm a privileged adventurer; my presuppositions are usually different from what people expect. Secondly, I'm balancing contradictory goals and opinions. Sara Ruddick and Jacques Ellul helped me understand that the way I manage my brain is OK, in fact sometimes necessary. People closer to me say, "You know how you get!"
So, here's the story of my favorite sign ever, as an example of how I get.
Like David Foster Wallace, knowing both terms are problematic, I am both pro-life and pro-choice. I personally assume life begins at conception, even though not all kids successfully implant and grow, AND I fight for widespread access to all kinds of birth control including safe legal cheap abortions so each woman can make her own decision about this.
In April 1989 I took Amtrak from Boston to Washington for a pro-choice march.
At the time I weighed 240 pounds. My daily life was car-free, with at an hour each day spent walking, so I didn’t expect physical distress. However, the marchers were asked to wear all white. Ask any fat woman who uses trains and buses whether she has a lot of white in her wardrobe ... nope ... but I scrapped around and found a calf length skirt (flowing) and a short sleeved golf shirt (stiff and scratchy) that were both whiteish. In the tradition of some of the suffragists, I made a purple sash to go over them.
My husband’s aunt put me up for the weekend. (In gratitude for her long friendship, in admiration of her gracious intelligence, her amazing children, her library, I am leaving her name out of this.) The day of the march was wet and rainy, so she loaned one of her late husband’s windbreakers, dark navy blue with the name of a CIA yacht club in white on the right breast.
At the time I identified as evangelical Episcopalian (more complexity) and so I started the day by taking a bus to the National Cathedral and attending the 8:15 Eucharist, a small service in a downstairs chapel. One of the Scripture readers was Sandra Day O’Connor, famous for many actions while a Supreme Court Justice, among them preserving the core of Roe v Wade while adding the "undue burden" language that increased the rights of states to restrict abortion.
During the Prayers of the People, we prayed for a positive outcome for O’Connor’s recent treatment for breast cancer.
Later, following the ushers' directions, O'Connor and I went up to the railing together and I took communion kneeling next to her. This is the Body of Christ, broken for you. We did not speak; the communion rail is not coffee hour and even at coffee hour I would have felt I was intruding, but I wondered whether she knew about the march or noticed the large stranger in shabby white (I had left the sash and windbreaker temporarily in the pew).
As for the rest of that long day: it was the kind of march where we did a ton of work to get contingents together with outfits and clever signs, stood near the Washington Monument for hours, and eventually walked past a bunch of Sunday-empty government buildings shouting slogans. The Park Police took a photo at 4pm and gave us credit for only half the people who were actually there, and the paid media barely covered it … but for many of the participants, the experience was profoundly meaningful. That sort of march.
I spent time standing, shuffling, and marching with various delegations, reveling in all the nuances of how people were expressing their opinions.
My favorite sign of the day said, in big block letters, Historians of 20th Century Astrophysics for Choice. Below that someone had added in pencil, “+ 1 Graphic Designer”.
As an historian I know — as a person of faith I believe — that each of us matters and each of our individual perspectives needs to be represented.
If that was your sign and you would like to have a reunion, please get in touch. And: thank you!